Woman Who Inspired the film Philomena Got an Audience With The Pope

Illustration for article titled Woman Who Inspired the film  Philomena Got an Audience With The Pope

Philomena Lee, the woman behind the Oscar-nominated film Philomena, was granted an audience with Pope Francis earlier this week.


According to Variety, she was joined by one of the film's stars, too:

Philomena Lee, whose son was sold for adoption by nuns in the 1950s, met with the Pope after Mass in St. Peter's Square, along with her daughter and Steve Coogan, one of the stars of the movie and its producer and co-writer. Last week, Lee was in Washington to meet with lawmakers about the Philomena project, in which she is pressing the Irish government to open up adoption information as well as procedures to reunite families. The meeting was all the more extraordinary in that some have characterized the movie as anti-Catholic, though the filmmakers rebut that it is very pro-faith.

Variety makes the point that this is could be a move timed to coincide with the film's Oscar campaign, but the Pope's spokesperson reminded everyone that he is a robot that does not require human forms of entertainment. "The Holy Father does not see films, and will not be seeing this one. It is also important to avoid using the Pope as part of a marketing strategy," said Father Federico Lombardi. Although there were rumors the film screened inside the Vatican. But no one is calling the Pope a liar, OK?

After the meeting, The Guardian reports Lee was happy to have the meeting:

"I am honoured and delighted to have been in the presence of Pope Francis today. As the film portrays, I have always put great faith in the Church and the good will to put the wrongs of the past right. I hope and believe that his Holiness Pope Francis joins me in the fight to help the thousands of mothers and children who need closure on their own stories."

For those that haven't seen the film, ABC News has spoilers, so click with caution if you haven't seen it. No spoilers here in the description of her story that became the basis for the film though:

Back in 1952, Lee was 18 years old, unmarried and pregnant. She gave birth to a son in an Irish home for unwed mothers and, told what she had done was shameful, was forced to give up her son, whom she named Anthony, three years after his birth. For 50 years afterward, she would periodically return to the home to try to get word of her son, but she never told anyone else about what happened because she felt ashamed.


The Guardian reports that the film has not been free from controversy within in the Catholic community:

Although Philomena as broadly been received as a tribute to faith, controversy has surrounded the film's portrayal of the sisters who sold Lee's child. "We do feel that the film, even though it is not a documentary, does not tell the whole truth and in many ways is very misleading," said Sister Julie Rose of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Roscrea, County Tipperary, where Philomena and Anthony stayed.


Lee worked with BBC reporter Martin Sixsmith to track down her son. For the rest of the story, check out the film, starring Dame Judy Dench. The film is up for four Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actress.

Image via Getty.



was forced to give up her son, whom she named Anthony, three years after his birth